On Wednesday 31st January, 2018 UNDP and UNICEF hosted the “Dissemination Seminar for the Findings of Focus Group Discussions in Trinidad on the perception of Multi-dimensional Poverty”. UNDP and UNICEF in collaboration with HEU, Centre for Health Economics (HEU-UWI) and the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services conducted a series of Focus Group Discussions in the 14 municipal regions in Trinidad to generate a national definition of multidimensional poverty. The study included an analysis of the living conditions and perceptions of poverty, including child poverty as experienced by persons in various communities throughout the 14 municipal regions in Trinidad.
Mrs. Sharifa Ali-Abdullah, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten brought welcoming remarks to highlighting “As we move toward implementation of the National Development Strategic Plan of Trinidad and Tobago 2016-2030 (Vision 2030) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a more comprehensive understanding of multi-dimensional poverty and the ability to measure deprivations utilising appropriate social indicators is essential. It would allow for the identification of the nature and extent of the vulnerabilities across the country and facilitate more effective targeting for social protection programmes and therefore more efficient use of limited resources”.
Subsequently, Mr. Richard Blewitt, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, expressed the importance of the joint programme between UNDP and UNICEF as it is only through strong partnerships we can achieve our Sustainable Development Goals, and the 2030 Agenda.
Following, Mr. Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF Representative Office for the Eastern Caribbean Area, elaborated on the partnership and the importance of the research for understanding poverty in Trinidad. Professor Karl Theodore director of the HEU Centre of Health Economics at the University of the West Indies and his team made a rousing presentation on the findings of the focus group discussions, which revealed that poverty means different things to different people.
The experiences and perceptions shared by participants in the focus group discussions provided insight into what they perceived as poverty and what they considered to be a good life. The responses obtained by participants in the various regions throughout Trinidad have confirmed that poverty is still very much associated with a lack of resources to meet one’s basic needs. However, it was recognized by most participants that poverty was much more than an experience of physical deprivations. Poverty was also about not having sufficient job opportunities, or a lack of access to essential services such as health, education and recreational and sporting facilities. Further, there was recognition that poverty was about social connectedness, psychological well-being and happiness.
In respect of child poverty, a similar finding was made. Poverty was certainly seen in the deprivation of basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education and access to key amenities for living such as potable water, sanitation facilities and electricity However, beyond financial constraints and service limitations, it was found that compromised family relationships and the incidence of phenomena like domestic abuse, drug-use, crime, child labour and teenage pregnancy constituted social ills and challenges which were very much a part of the poverty experience.
Ms. Joanne Deoraj, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Planning and Development offered remarks on behalf of the Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development. Ms. Deoraj elaborated on the importance of the findings from the focus groups stating “The information shared is critically important to the Government as we continue the process harmonizing our outreach for those who despite several initiatives by successive administrations over the years costing billions of dollars, still find themselves living on the margins of society”.
After which, The Honourable Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, Minister of Social Development and Family Services addressed audience emphasizing the importance of the joint programme stating, “For some time now it has been recognised, that the traditional income based poverty measures by themselves, do not adequately capture the nature and depth of poverty, but that a clearly defined multi-dimensional approach, creates a more comprehensive picture of people living in poverty”. She also elaborated on the completion and implementation of a comprehensive National Poverty Reduction Strategy and the completion of the consultations in Tobago, implementation of the National Social Mitigation Plan and the 2018 Survey of Living Conditions (SLC) which will provide more current statistical data.
In closing, Mrs. Isele Robinson-Cooper, Programme Officer, Poverty/Social Policy & Governance UNDP Trinidad and Tobago offered the vote of thanks to all parties involved in the success of the focus group discussions and the continued work and dedication by all in working towards understanding multi-dimensional poverty.